Short communication: Variability in milk urea nitrogen and dairy total mixed ration composition in the northeastern United States

A. N. Hristov, M. Harper, J. Oh, F. Giallongo, J. C. Lopes, G. Cudoc, J. Clay, R. Ward, L. E. Chase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The main objective of this survey was to examine variability in milk urea nitrogen (MUN) for Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) herds in the northeastern United States (the Northeast), examine trends in dairy cow diet composition, and determine potential relationships for MUN and diet composition. Trends in milk fat and protein concentrations, milk yield, days in milk on test day, and lactation number of the cows were also evaluated. The data set for the survey included 10,839,461 DHIA dairy cow records from 2004 to 2015 for 13 states (CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VA, VT, and WV) and was retrieved from Dairy Records Management Systems (Raleigh, NC). Average (across states and years) milk yield, milk fat, and milk protein were 31.6 ± 0.24 kg/d, 3.85 ± 0.021%, and 3.13 ± 0.013%, respectively. No obvious trends were observed for milk fat or protein content, but milk yield steadily increased during the survey period. Milk urea N concentration averaged 13.3 ± 0.13 mg/dL, with no obvious or consistent trends. Examination of variability in dairy feed cost and all milk price for the Northeast indicated that high MUN generally coincided with high feed cost and high milk price. For the diet composition survey, 9,707 records of total mixed ration (TMR) analyses, unrelated to the milk composition data set, from the Cumberland Valley Analytical Service (Maugansville, MD) database were examined. Concentration of TMR crude protein (CP) decreased from 17.1% in 2007 to 16.4% in 2015, but there was not an obvious trend in soluble protein concentration. Concentration of TMR neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and 24-h in vitro NDF degradability declined steadily during the survey period and was accompanied by a steady increase in TMR starch concentration. Examination of these unrelated data sets revealed lack of correlation between MUN and diet chemical composition. Thus, we conclude that individual cow MUN in Northeast dairy herds fluctuated between 2004 and 2015. It appeared that MUN followed variability in feed cost; however, ration feed ingredient data were not available to better define the reasons for the variations in MUN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1579-1584
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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